Guests: Kim Walters, Director of the Braun Library at Southwest Museum + John Koegel, CSU Fullerton
Voices of old California, preserved in wax
L.A. THEN AND NOW
A new exhibit at the Southwest Museum gives a sample of the hundreds of Spanish-language folk songs recorded a century ago.
11am - Noon
1. George Wharton James cylinder (circa 1900?): Navajo "Yeibichei Song"
* A non-commercial recording made by George Wharton James (a Los Angeles-based writer and California promoter), circa 1900, of a Navajo singer singing a Yeibichei song (Gods-their-grandfathers), by a solo singer. In the Southwest Museum cylinder collection.
2. Laura Bolton disc (1940): Navajo "Yeibichei Song: Talking God's Song"
* A later field recording of a Navajo Yeibichei song (the same song genre), sung by a group of Navajo singers in 1940. Originally recorded on flat disc, now available on the Smithsonian Folkways CD series.
3. Lummis cylinder: "Mucho sufro por tí," Rosa and Luisa Villa
* “I Suffer Greatly For You,” sung by the Villa sisters, Rosa and Luisa, with their own guitar accompaniment. The Hermanas Villa were local Los Angeles residents, and were very musically talented. Their father was a prosperous butcher. Their brother Hernando was a famous artist, painting California and Southwest themes, and their brother Noe sang in the San Francisco Opera chorus in the 1920s. A typical song of the time about romantic love. The Villa sisters recorded a number of songs for Lummis circa 1904.
4. Lummis cylinder: "Despiera blanca paloma," Manuela García
* Manuela García was the most prolific of all of Lummis’s musical informants, recording more than 100 songs, I believe. She was a fine singer who had a larger repertory of Mexican popular, folk, and salon songs, as well as some songs with local California origins. Her family was relatively prominent in early Los Angeles, and her father worked for John Temple, one of the wealthiest landowners in Southern California in the mid nineteenth century. Temple Street in downtown is named after him. He owned the land where the old Los Angeles County Courthouse stood for many years (now the site of the current courthouse, I believe). The Garcías were a very musical family. Four members of the family recorded songs for Lummis. This song is also about romantic love.
5. Lummis cylinder: La pasion funesta," Rosendo Uruchurtu
* This is an interesting song by a local blind musician, Rosendo Uruchurtu, a fine guitarist and singer. He played guitar for many of Manuela García’s recordings. Rosendo was a friend of the Villa and García families. His grandfather was also a musician, and was active in this field in Los Angeles in the 1850s.
6. Lummis Cylinder: "Peteneras," Francisco Amate
* Lummis’s Spanish-born cook Francisco Amate was a fine singer and guitarist, and recorded about 20 Spanish (not Mexican) songs for Lummis. These are considered by some Spanish scholars as important examples of “pre-flamenco” music.
7. Edison Mexican cylinder: "Anita" Octaviano Yáñez (solo guitar)
* This is a commercial recording made in Mexico City in the early 20th century by the Edison company, the first recording company to make recordings in Mexico. Not much is known today about the Mexican guitarist Octaviano Yáñez, except that he made some really good recordings for Edison and was a fine musician. This is a “mazurka de salón,” perhaps composed by Yánez, but I am not sure. The cylinder is in the Lummis cylinder collection and shows that these fine Mexican recordings were available for sale in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the USA, as well as in Mexico. While in Mexico, between about 1904 and the beginning of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Edison company recorded hundreds of cylinders played by some of Mexico’s best classical and popular musicians (opera singers, wind bands, chamber ensembles, popular singers, as well as the first mariachi recordings).
8. Bettini concert cylinder: "Parigi o cara," from La Traviata (Verdi)
* In the Lummis cylinder collection at the Southwest Museum; originally probably owned by George Wharton James. This is a very rare Bettini cylinder of an operatic duet by Madame Ciaparelli an Signor Dante del Papa, two early operatic recording artists. Bettini was the first or among the first to record high-level opera singers. His cylinders were issued is small quantities and are rare. This recording dates from the later 1890s.
* Someone shaved off the end of the original cylinder (at the turn of the twentieth century, probably), and then recorded a bad rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (George Wharton James and others?).10. Vocalion disc: "Que el importa al mundo," sung by Los madrugadores
9. Lummis cylinder (Isleta Pueblo): Cancion de los muchachos," Ramón Zuñi (announced by Lummis)
* Recorded circa 1904 at El Alisal, Lummis’s home in the Arroyo Seco (now off the Avenue 43 exit on the 110 freeway), by Ramón Zuñi, from Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. Zuñi was helping Lummis build El Alisal at the time of the recording project, and recorded this very interesting “Song of the Boys.” Partch transcribed this song in 1933 from the original cylinder, and later used the tune in one of his compositions.
10. Harry Partch, "Cloud Chamber Music", Harry Partch Collection Vol.1, new world
11. Partch, "Cloud Chamber Music", recorded live REDCATheatre May 29/2009, private recording
12. Vocalion disc: "Que el importa al mundo," sung by Los madrugadores
* The commercial release was recorded in Los Angeles in the 1920s or 1930s by the local group Los Madrugadores. It is a variant of a version recorded by Manuela García in 1904, showing the endurance of some of the songs in the Lummis Cylinder Collection into later decades.
13. Lummis cylinder: "Despiera blanca paloma," Manuela García